We always emphasize how important it is to communicate with patients clearly and frequently. This is true regardless of the reason for the communication, but it’s especially true when the conversation is financial in nature. The simple answer is yes, outbound calling is still key to self pay collection success, but what makes this question so much more difficult to address is the how.
How do you successfully implement outbound calling in your self pay collections strategy?
With increasing consumer protection laws, like the recent Telephone Consumer Protection Act declaratory ruling and compliance restrictions with cell phone communication, using outbound calling as a self pay engagement strategy has changed dramatically in healthcare, so finding the best technology and simply knowing how to do it best can be downright challenging.
Why is outbound calling necessary?
It's easy for a patient to ignore a paper statement or feel puzzled when looking at an online bill. They develop questions in their minds and may even feel overwhelmed, but they may not take the time, or feel comfortable, or even remember to reach out for answers. Often, setting the statement aside to deal with later is “easier” than addressing it.
But when a representative from your provider organization contacts a patient regarding an outstanding balance, it's an opportunity for the patient to better understand the financial obligation, discuss payment options and take steps toward resolving the balance owed. In short, it’s a positive interaction that dissipates the worry and enhances the patient’s overall experience with you.
An early step in collecting a balance is sending a billing statement. But if your next step after sending is “waiting,” you are just leaving the actual payment process up to chance. Instead, when your staff takes the initiative to involve the patient, that is what takes the payment process to the next level of action. This proactive outbound call is a reminder that payment is due as well as an opportunity for the patient to discuss payment options or ask questions. This call engages the patient and provides the patient with an opportunity to play a role in his or her financial obligation. At this stage, flexibility is key in obtaining payment, even if it's not in full.
How dialing technology makes a difference
Truth be told, there is a whole science behind patient self pay follow up that can make a huge difference between great and mediocre results. Outbound calling efforts nicely supplement paper and online billing channels, but first you’ll want to segment your patient self pay population by leveraging propensity to pay solutions. This way, you can be sure your outbound calling technology knows who to dial and when to dial.
Simply put, an outbound patient interaction system creates smarter call campaigns. It improves the automation of routine tasks to increase both capacity and specialist productivity, all the while reducing operating costs.
An integrated and compliant dialing solution delivers several productivity-enhancing advantages: superior speed and accuracy of calling, increased right party connects, decreased abandoned calls, and shorter wait times. It also includes automated voice messaging, text messaging, and call recording. Turning idle time into productive time by 200-300% over manual calling, this technology is part of an integrated solution that reaches the right contacts with the right frequency, at the right time in the billing cycle and even the right time of day.
Why you also need the right staff
Another important aspect of outbound calling involves the representatives initiating patient contact, as not everyone has a knack for the type of conversation that leads patients to make payments. To state the obvious, there is no place on a self pay collection team for impatience or abruptness. The right representative will demonstrate empathy, even compassion. They will be firm and definitive in their communication style, but respect and politeness must prevail. When representatives engage the patient in conversation, they make the call feel less like a business transaction; by remaining professional, they ensure a quality call, no matter which turn the conversation makes.
Practice makes perfect. Scripting calls, role-playing, learning by listening to calls, and putting measures in place to assure the quality of conversation on outbound calls all enhance your outbound calling strategy. And if, in spite of all efforts, the patient is unavailable at the time of the call, your healthcare organization should always make it easy for them to call back, spurring another whole self pay collections topic: your inbound calling strategy.
The Bottom Line
Outbound calling is only a small portion of the big picture when it comes to self pay collection. While it is a key component to the whole process, it’s equally important to remember that every instance of patient contact is an opportunity to move the patient toward a zero balance.
If you’re not sure what it is that your current self pay strategy is missing, you might be interested in our eBook, A Winning Self Pay Strategy.